CHICAGO (AP) _ Former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski was released Tuesday from a federal prison in Wisconsin and entered a halfway house in Chicago.

Rostenkowski, once chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, pleaded guilty in April 1996 to two counts of mail fraud involving the operations of his House office.

Rostenkowski, 69, has two months remaining on his 17-month sentence, said Dan Dunne, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington. He said Rostenkowski left the federal prison in Oxford, Wis., on Tuesday and checked into the Salvation Army Freedom Center on Chicago's West Side.

Rostenkowski, an Illinois Democrat first elected to Congress in 1958, had been the confidante of presidents and one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill.

But in 1994, in the wake of the U.S. House Post Office scandal, a federal grand jury indicted Rostenkowski on 17 felony counts, including embezzlement of public funds and witness tampering.

Rostenkowski long insisted he was innocent and would fight the charges, but he eventually pleaded guilty to two of the counts.

He admitted sending House payroll checks through the mail to his district office to pay employees who, Rostenkowski acknowledged, performed ``personal or political service.''

Rostenkowski also admitted sending a check to Lenox China to pay for gifts for friends and political cronies.